Atila Kara

Atila Kara Dive Instructor Kaş, Turkey

Atila Kara Dive Instructor

Atila Kara, who was born in 1965, has been diving in Turkish waters since at least 1989. He is one of the most experienced Dive Instructors in Turkey. To the other members of the dive and boat crew he is simply “hocam” (my teacher) and he lives up to the title…

Atila Before he started his scuba adventures, he was an accomplished free or “skin” diver. Atila was first introduced to scuba at Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey. He was a member of the university scuba club (Su Altı Topluluğu). Today it is called the METU Underwater Society (ODTUSAT).

Atila has experienced diving in all the waters surrounding Turkey; the Black Sea, the Marmara and of course the Mediterranean. Some of his accomplishments include his first of many cave dives in the 1990’s. Be warned however, cave diving, as an activity in itself, is not permitted in Turkey. Cave diving can only be legally performed as part of a formal scientific exploration. Atila dove with the National Speleological Society Cave Diving Section (NSSCDS) as part of the KARSTDIVE project .

Atila was also one of the first group of underwater archaelogy divers working with Dr. Nergis Günsenin, a professor of UW archaeology at Istanbul and Bosphorus Universities in Istanbul. They were a team under Dr. Günsenin’s supervision to be the first to perform rigorous underwater surveys of ancient artifacts. Before that time, divers were only concerned with bringing artifacts to the surface.

Atila’s accomplishments are far too numerous to mention in such a short article. We will continue with some of his other accomplishments at a later date.

First Scuba Training in Turkey

The first group of scuba trained university students in Turkey, ever; including Atila, were trained by Gökhan Türe whose father was a Turkish general. Gökhan was the first civilian in Turkey to be trained by Turkish Navy divers back in 1984.

In those days all their theory and practical training was conducted in classrooms at METU, they met three times a week for almost two months. Additional training was conducted at Ankara’s Kesikköprü lake which was usually among very cold conditions. Previously the students had engaged in competitive free diving in the lake. These first scuba students were trained as if they were in the military. They had to pass a rigorous test of physical fitness before they could continue with their training. Most of the training was conducted by each student to the other under the guidance of Gökhan Türe. The students found that their free diving experience speeded up the progress of their scuba training. For many years afterward, free diving experience was necessary to begin scuba training.

Because there was no formal sponsorship club members had to improvise a great deal. They also had to arrange their own transportation to deep water sites. Their first dive training in deep water was in Kaş at the current site of Kaş Kamping. Later they traveled to dive at Ayvalik, Datça, and Bodrum. To get to Kaş they traveled on a university bus during winter semester break in January. Club members camped outside, they slept in tents and prepared their own food. The students were always cold. They rotated shifts to keep water boiling both for tea and for carrying to the water to pour into the wet suits of trainees so as to avoid hypothermia. Students would often be up to eight hours in the water so cold was a serious problem.

In the late 1980’s, there were no dive shops, no regulator repair and no air filling to be found anywhere for civilians in Turkey. Only the Navy had such equipment and facilities. The club was able to obtain a Navy compressor to fill their tanks and the rest of the equipment was borrowed from one another or other sources. On a training dive, a student would only have their own face mask and fins, everything else was borrowed and shared.

Early Equipment Needs and Shortages

horse collar life vests

horse collar life vests

At the time, there were no Buoyancy Control Devices or BCD’s then, only a “horse collar” life vest which had a gas canister attached for emergency ascending. Unfortunately, none of the canisters worked so students had to inflate their life vests manually, by mouth.

Among the entire club the students only had three sets of double steel tanks (not aluminum), so they had to become very good at air conservation because the students would make three different dives on one fill and often the last student to use the tanks would run out of air.

Early Training Was Tough

Double scuba tanks

Double scuba tanks

The first two days of training consisted of free diving instruction or referesher. Students also went for runs around the peninsula jutting out from Kaş. Club members then started a week of intense scuba training; all day in the water followed by evenings refilling tanks, repairing equipment and performing maintenance or repair on the regulators, often training themselves in these skills.

When the students finished the course they were givin a certificate by the club. There were no widely issued PADI or CMAS certifications at the time. The following year, the previous graduates would become the instructors of the new group of students and eventually created a cadre of professional dive instructors throughout Turkey. As the club members advanced some of them became members of the technical committee which determined the level and quality of the courses. The committee wrote a training manual and developed different levels of training and experience among the student divers. Through their efforts they standardized and defined the responsibilities of the membership and the instructors within the club.

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